Damascus Reaches out to Jerusalem for a Deal – First Time in Seven-Year War

Syrian President Bashar Assad broke new ground this week by posting a message to the Israeli government in Jerusalem for the first time in the seven-year civil war – or possibly ever. This is reported exclusively by DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources.
The message, relayed through Moscow, was addressed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. It contained a blunt request for Israel to desist from intervening in the battles currently waged in south and southeast Syria, although some of the fighting is taking place close to its Golan border. (See attached map.)
The Syrian ruler noted that he is aware of Israel’s concerns and security sensitivity regarding the Syrian army’s presence so close to its northern border. But he also omitted mention of the presence of his allies, Hizballah and Shiite militias, which are also fighting on those battlefields, under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers.
As part of his proposition, the Syrian ruler was ready to pledge that if Israel abstained from interfering in the Syrian army’s fight to restore his control over these areas, he would guarantee the preservation of the calm that had prevailed on Israel’s border with Syria for decades (1974 to 2011).
But that’s as far as he went. Assad offered no promises in the names of the pro-Iranian forces fighting with his army. He only hinted at their eventual withdrawal from areas that affect Israel’s security.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources disclose that Assad posted his message to Jerusalem in the middle of the Syrian-Hizballah operation for the seizure of the southern town of Daraa, just one kilometer from the Jordanian border. This battle was charted by Iranian officers as the first in a two-step offensive. Their next target is Quneitra, which is just 9 kilometers from Israel’s Golan border.
Assad’s message was relayed to Jerusalem at the same time as Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, presented a similar Note to Jordan’s King Abdullah, which likewise sought to avert his military interference in the Syrian ruler’s war plans for southern and southeastern Syria.
While the line of communication Damascus opened up with Jerusalem (Damascus has been in contact with Amman for some months) was noteworthy in itself, his message failed to allay Israel’s concerns about his allies. Indeed, the actions of Hizballah and its Iranian commanders this week hung a large question mark over the credibility of his assurances to Israel.
The most troubling actions were:
1. The pro-Iranian militias’ lightning advance in the last ten days to take over a northern section of the Syrian-Iraq border region. On Tuesday, June 13, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Tasnim news agency ran photos of Al Qods chief Qassam Soleimani celebrating this victory with the Afghan Shiite militia.
Tasnim also warned that a “dangerous confrontation with the US military and its allies” is still ahead: “A serious battle is now shaping up between America and the groups it controls and the Syrian Army and its allies over domination of the border regions in southern Syria.”
This report by an IRGC mouthpiece showed Tehran to be not content with breaching the Syrian-Iraqi border at one or two points. They are raring to go against the American and Jordanian forces holding a key border crossing and making them pull back to behind the Jordanian border.
2. When Assad piously assured the Jordanian king that he had nothing to fear from the conquest of Daraa by Hizballah’s crack Al Qaim Brigade and the Syrian army’s 4th Armored Division, small commando units were already staging forays to cross over into the Hashemite Kingdom, constantly testing the alertness of Jordanian border guards and special forces units.
3. So what was Assad playing at this week? And how far do his assurances go when it comes to controlling the actions of his ultra-aggressive allies? Not far. They certainly do not guarantee they will obey any orders he may give to keep their hands off Syria’s neighbors’ territory.

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